Dear Assisted Living Home

Mom picking rocks on Leech Lake, MN 2007.

When you told me the other day how my mom is showing signs of agitation, that she resists re-direction, gets into everything, and that she sometimes makes fists and gives dirty looks, I was really thinking —

And your point is . . . ?

Mom has a brain disease.  She has advanced dementia, Alzheimer’s or something that is suffocating her brain and making her behave erratically in the process.   Mood swings, agitation, and a departure from reality are expected.

Please be patient and kind with her.

Instead of complaining, tell me how you are accommodating my mother’s advancing disease.  Because when you tell me she’s making a fist — I hear that she’s frustrated, and that YOU need to slow down and be patient with her.

Please meet her where she’s at.

When you told me that she broke the night light in her room, I was thinking that it shouldn’t have been there and that she’s lucky she didn’t cut herself.  I remember going into homes that weren’t childproof with my very young children and feeling like I was surrounded by time bombs.  The glass vase on the coffee table?  BOOM!  The beautiful floor lamp?  CRASH!   You should know by now that my mother is like a 5’3″ “toddler” who gets into things.

Please safeguard your valuables and childproof your surroundings.

When you complain about my mom, it feels like daycare complaining that my toddler broke a crayon or ripped a page in a coloring book.  Which probably explains the puzzled look on my face and why I don’t apologize.

Please stop complaining!

The toddler can’t help it and neither can my mom.

Signed,

Daughter Bear

Mom & Dad, Brother John, and my foursome in 2009.

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Comments

  1. Jeanne says:

    Grandma Hall did those same things. I remember her putting her fists up at my mom and I didn’t understand then, but do now, and I scolded her for doing that.

    • Joanne Leonardis says:

      Sometimes fists are raised or dirty looks are given when they’re frustrated and can’t express themselves. This is information for the caregiver and should be noted and adjustments made. It’s never their fault. Period.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Beautifully said

  3. Melody Jemison says:

    This post brought tears to my eyes. I feel your pain acutely. My dad is very belligerant and defiant at times. I know he feels totally frustrated and out of control with this disease. I am so concerned because we are putting him in a home in 2 weeks. He doesn’t know and wouldn’t remember even if we told him our plans. He will not go willingly. I am very concerned about how he will act and how the staff will treat him. I have visited the home and spent hours talking with the staff. It seems like a really good place, but I don’t know how things will go until we get him there. Thank you for being willing to share your story. I continue to watch with much interest and empathy knowing you are just a few steps ahead of me. Blessings to you and your mom.

    • Joanne Leonardis says:

      Hi Melody, I’m so sorry to hear you’re putting your dad in a home — but sometimes that’s the best choice. I won’t tell you it’s easy and I would say one of the hardest parts about it is trusting your loved one into the care of other people. Finding loving, kind, gentle, patient people is EVERYTHING. I wish you the best with your dad’s move-in, and transition — it will no doubt take time to settle in. Best, xo Joanne

  4. Deb says:

    Dearest Daughter Bear,

    I was just thinking of you and your mom last evening and wondered how you all were doing…
    Your blog is so lovingly, thoughtfully written… And so helpful …. The light of your compassionate wisdom as I struggle with the innate cruelty of this disease is a gift.
    Much love

    Deb

    • Joanne Leonardis says:

      Dearest Deb, Thank you. I write for you, I write for me, I write for anyone who cares to peek into my life. I’m glad I can be helpful. Love to your father. J. : )

  5. Liz says:

    Well said..this was my biggest frustrations with the Assisted Living facility…For some crazy reason I thought these caregivers were in the career of their choosing and their schooling would have enlightened them to this awful disease and how to care for these once vibrant persons..and to treat them with the dignity and respect that they deserve.

    • Joanne Leonardis says:

      Hi Liz, I’ve learned that caring for these dear people is either just a job or a calling for caregivers. The difference between these two intentions is evident in the energy they share with your loved one. Thankfully it seems my mom’s caregivers are answering a calling. But there is one person who complains.

  6. Joan says:

    Thanks for sharing your life with mom. Our mom has been in a health care center since August 2012 and still wants to go home and can’t understand why she is there. Her short term memory is poor and so she is in the Alzheimer’s wing. She gets aggravated at the aides and acts mean sometimes, which we had never seen growing up. This disease is so cruel and we all need a lot of patience to live with one another.

    • Joanne Leonardis says:

      Hi Joan, You’re welcome — I’m happy to share some of my life with my mom who has been in an Assisted Living Home for a year now, since May 2013. I just feel for her since she’s lost all touch with reality and so everything is confusing and nothing makes sense. Anger and fists come with the frustration of not being able to effectively communicate. That’s sometimes the only way they can make their feelings known. It’s a tough road, it’s a difficult way to go. The best to your mom and her family. ~ Joanne

  7. Dianne says:

    I understand your frustrations completely and so wish things there could be a little more accommodating to their needs. Continuing prayers.

    • Joanne Leonardis says:

      Yes you do understand my frustrations Dianne. Things seemed to be better during my last visit, but I think that’s because my mom has calmed down a bit. xo J.

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